ASMR is a phenomenon that has taken the digital world by storm. Twitch and YouTube are filled with streamers creating the art form for millions of followers. A quick search for ASMR videos easily yields 13 million results. From the sounds of people eating to people running their fingers over the teeth of a comb, from someone speaking in a raspy whisper to repeatedly tapping their fingernails on a surface, ASMR can be anything the community wants and needs it to be at the time.
What is ASMR?
ASMR can be confusing for the uninitiated. ASMR stands for autonomous sensory meridian response – what you would commonly refer to as “tingles down your spine”. If you’ve ever stumbled down the YouTube rabbit hole or been aimlessly clicking through Twitch, you have probably stumbled across some of these videos. While many content creators make ASMR purposely, others create playlists of unintentional sounds that simply help them relieve anxiety and stress.
One of the best mainstream versions of ASMR was shown by Michelob Ultra at the Superbowl in 2019. The beer commercial featured Zoe Kravitz as she raspily whispered into a microphone, clicked her beautifully manicured fingernails across the beer bottle, and swivelled the bottle around the table. While many in the mainstream media found it strange, the ASMR community acknowledged it quickly. Media outlets the next day were running articles to educate others about ASMR and the effects it had on the community.
The Effects of ASMR
The ASMR community early on acknowledge the potential clinical usage of the media. Since it’s rise to underground glory in 2007, the ASMR community has spoken openly about the purposes behind their attraction to ASMR. Many in the community utilize these sound effects for relaxation, stress management, and insomnia. Think of the effects as similar to doing yoga or meditating. It is a practised experience to help relax.
The phenomenon has only grown. With its online community and following turning into common knowledge, it was strange that it was still misunderstood in the mainstream community. Though the community acknowledge the effects of the tingles, there were still questions as to why it caused these sensations while other people felt nothing.
Psychology professors in the United Kingdom were turned onto the phenomenon and decided to empirically study. The research sought to establish what the effects of ASMR were physiologically and to gain a better understanding of the remarkable instance. One of the major problems that they encountered was that those who did not experience ASMR had a hard time believing that it was a genuine experience.
After all, if you hadn’t experienced ASMR before, wouldn’t it seem out of the ordinary for someone to tell you they enjoyed listening to people tapping Tupperware or chewing into a microphone?
When the professors began their study, they found ASMR experiencers who watched videos reported high levels of calmness and excitedness after watching an ASMR experience. The physiological response was also immense. The researchers found that those who experienced ASMR had a dramatic decrease in heart rate and their stress response severely decreased, as opposed to those who identified as non-ASMR experiencers.
These findings were the first indication that ASMR could be used clinically to decrease a stress response in the human body. However, the gap remained that only those that had previously experienced ASMR experienced large results. The professors are now working toward developing a system to accurately measure the ASMR response and determine the brain activity that is controlling the response.
ASMR And The Treatment of Anxiety and Insomnia…
Many studies have since been launched into the effects of ASMR and its clinical uses. We know that ASMR can be utilized for insomnia, anxiety, and other mental health related issues because people are already utilizing it for these things. The benefits of utilizing ASMR as a treatment option outweigh any potential negative side effects.
For instance, ASMR isn’t dangerous. When compared to pharmacological substances used to treat anxiety, the likelihood of experiencing nasty and lasting consequences is zero. Just as meditating and yoga are harmless, so is listening to someone eat Pringles. It is also readily available when you examine cost and access. If it were to be made a payable experience (for some streamers, they are already using it this way), the cost would be significantly less than a prescription without insurance.
As for whether it can be a long-term solution to mental health issues, the professional opinion of psychologists and counsellors is split. Many think it depends on the level of anxiety, insomnia, or category of health issues, while others think that it would be a mistake to utilize it in the long term with no other solutions explored.
While some counsellors wouldn’t comment of its effectiveness (as it is not acknowledged as a treatment option by any governing board of psychological medicine), some counselors said they felt it could fall into the same category as other mindfulness techniques that are explicitly taught in therapy, such as meditation and guided breathing. These things are known to play an important role in managing the stress response of your body. However, even these techniques are utilized with more intensive treatment, such as speaking with a therapist of other professional and, in some cases, medication, but these are good things to have and utilize as tools for management of anxiety.
Conclusion of the Community…
Those who already use ASMR for anxiety and insomnia believe it’s just a matter of time before the scientific community catches up to what they are already living. Afterall, ASMR has become a central part of their lives. Many who utilize the experience already have chosen to work to expand the community by creating their own videos. Whether traditional or radical, ASMR is being used to deal with specific triggers and health issues. Some content creators are even posting videos as characters from popular series.
While the effects of ASMR are most beneficial to the community that experiences them every day, there is no denying that it has effects that majorly impact those suffering from anxiety and insomnia. The science has already proven that ASMR can drastically decrease your heart rate and physiological response. It is only a matter of time before we see it utilized more and more as a treatment for option for mental health-related issues.